U.S. seizes 16.5 tons of cocaine from ship in Philadelphia

June 18 (Reuters) - Federal authorities seized 16.5 tons of cocaine worth more than $1 billion from a ship in Philadelphia in one of the largest drug seizures in U.S. history, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

"This amount of cocaine could kill millions - MILLIONS - of people," Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain said on Twitter.

The cocaine was seized at Philadelphia's Packer Marine Terminal, and members of the ship's crew were arrested, prosecutors said.

The seizure ranks among some of the largest in U.S. history including a bust of 21 tons of cocaine in California in 1989 and 14 tons of cocaine confiscated in Texas during the same year.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia said it estimated the value of the cocaine seized at more than $1 billion.

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$1B cocaine bust on Philadelphia ship
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$1B cocaine bust on Philadelphia ship
Officials gather on the decks of a container ship on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 18, 2019.U.S. authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
An officer with a dog inspects a container along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. U.S. authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Authorities search a container along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. U.S. authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Cranes unload the freight ship MSC Gayane, after US authorities seized more than 16 tons of cocaine at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 18, 2019. - US authorities said Tuesday they had seized around 16 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated street value of over $1 billion in a historic drug bust aboard a ship at the port of Philadelphia. The drugs were found in seven containers aboard the MSC Gayane cargo ship, which was leaving for Europe after having previously called in Chile, Panama and the Bahamas, according to local media. (Photo by DOMINICK REUTER / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cocaine remains one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the United States, where most of the world's cocaine is consumed, according to federal officials.

"There are troubling early signs that cocaine use and availability is on the rise in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade," the U.S. State Department said in a global narcotics trade report in 2017.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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